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Woman jailed 11 yrs for anti-Amir tweets – Assembly in semi-paralysis as it awaits ruling

KUWAIT: The criminal court yesterday sentenced a Kuwaiti woman tweeter for 11 years in jail for insulting HH the Amir, calling to overthrow the regime and misusing her mobile phone by writing remarks on Twitter. Huda Al-Ajmi was accused of committing three violations by writing tweets to insult the Amir and undermine his status, calling for the overthrow of the regime and finally misusing her mobile phone. She was handed five years each for the first two offenses and one year for the third.

HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah later yesterday urged "unity" from the people of Kuwait and for them to be "cautious" in the face of regional challenges that could affect Kuwait. "The current regional circumstances and recurring developments we are prone to require us to be cautious, wary and ready for the challenge. This can only come through national unity, coordination and a united stand against those who try to undermine this," Sheikh Sabah said.

The court ruling said Ajmi, who denied the charges, must start serving the jail term immediately even before the court of appeals begins to look into the case. Ajmi is not a well-known political activist and is not known to have participated in opposition protests, but the public prosecution pressed the charges against her based on tweets she had allegedly written against the regime and the Amir.

The 11-year prison term is the harshest term against an online activist so far since the government launched its crackdown against opposition online activists in October last year. But the term is not final as it will still be challenged before the court of appeals and the cassation court, whose verdicts are final. During the clampdown, dozens of online activists and former opposition MPs have been handed prison terms or are still on trial, mainly for insulting the Amir.

In another development, the National Assembly appears to be in semi-paralysis as it awaits a crucial ruling by the constitutional court next Sunday which could include dissolving the Assembly itself. Almost all committees did not hold meetings, especially the financial and economic affairs committee which could not meet for the second day in a row for a lack of quorum. Head of the panel MP Youssef Al-Zalzalah told reporters the committee decided to meet next week "unless the Assembly is dissolved".

The only committee that held its meeting was the foreign relations panel which discussed the controversial Gulf security pact with representatives of the interior ministry. Head of the committee MP Saleh Ashour said it was decided to invite the foreign minister for a meeting on June 23 to discuss the pact in detail. He however added that it will be very difficult for the Assembly to debate and pass the pact in the present term.

The liberal National Democratic Alliance and Kuwait Democratic Forum called in a joint statement on the government to pull out of the Gulf security pact immediately and withdraw it from the Assembly in order "to preserve Kuwait's identity and in respect of the constitution". The two groups reiterated their rejection of the security agreement for fear of undermining the country's sovereignty directly or indirectly and in defense of liberties against local or regional attempts to reduce them, besides safeguarding the 1962 constitution from any obligations or commitments under the Gulf pact.

By B Izzak, Staff Writer

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This article was published on 10/06/2013